Phytochemicals & Their Health Benefits
Phytochemicals refer to the compounds present in plants. You can find these substances in foods that are plant-based, like fruits, legumes, vegetables, seeds, whole grains, and nuts.
They offer their plants their aroma, color, and flavor. For example, the dark hue of blueberries, the bitter taste of broccoli, and the pungent smell of garlic. Certain phytochemicals are used as traditional medicine and also as poisons.
Breaking Down Its Terminology
This naturally occurring compound offers an array of protective health benefits. Phytochemicals consist of compounds like salicylates, protease inhibitors, phytosterols, lectins, saponins, terpenes, glucosinolates, monoterpenes, sulphides, and polyphenols.
There are thousands of various phytochemicals, and scientists are discovering their important roles.
It is believed that there are still more phytochemicals to discover in the foods that we consume.
Even though the broadest phytochemicals groups like anthocyanidins, flavonoids, and isoflavones are usually referred to as a homogenous group, you will see that the single compounds in every group possess varying chemical structures. The body also metabolizes them differently and might feature varying health effects.
Flavonoids tend to be the most studied and varied group under phytochemicals. There are over 6000 flavonoids, which occur in plant-based foods.
Plants usually produce numerous phytochemicals, which act as a protection against many environmental stressors.
A plant will produce more phytochemicals when there are excess environmental stressors. So, the content of phytochemicals tends to vary under growing conditions.
Claims & Evidence
Most of the present evidence regarding phytochemicals and their benefits can be seen from observing individuals who consume plant-based foods primarily.
These people had significantly lesser rates of certain heart diseases and cancer types. The American Institute of Cancer Research recommends people incorporate and consume a diet that is mainly plant-based.
However, conclusive evidence isn’t present concerning a specific phytochemical guarantees reduction of cancer risks or eliminating it entirely.
But there is promising evidence, which shows how phytochemicals possess the potential to offer the following health benefits:
- It assists in the functioning of your immune system.
- It also protects your DNA and cells from any potential damage, which may cause cancer.
- You can expect it to decrease inflammation in the body.
- This chemical also does a great job of slowing down the growth rate of cancerous cells.
- Plus, it helps in regulating your hormones.
Some Phytochemicals & Their Benefits
Let us discuss some of these specific phytochemicals and what good it does to your body. They are as follows:
Carotenoids (Beta Carotene, Lycopene) – It might inhibit the growth of cancer cells and decrease the risks of cardiovascular illnesses. You will experience a boost in your immunity as well. You can find this phytochemical in cooked tomatoes, broccoli, orange squash, sweet potatoes, and carrot.
Isothiocyanates (Sulforaphane) – This phytochemical offers protection against cardiovascular diseases and even different cancer types. You can find this chemical in foods like cruciferous veggies like kale, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Flavonoids – It helps in fighting inflammation and also reducing DNA damage. This chemical reduces the growth of tumors too. Some of the foods that contain this chemical include berries, whole grains, apples, walnuts, citrus fruits, tea, soybeans, and coffee.
Lutein & Zeaxanthin – This phytochemical assists in promoting your eye health. It is present in dark leafy greens like chard and spinach.
Anthocyanins – Its role includes lowering your blood pressure. You can find it in berries.
General Benefits of Phytochemicals
Let us discuss how phytochemicals aid in certain health conditions.
There is proof that shows how eating foods containing phytochemicals helps in decreasing cardiovascular disease risks.
According to a meta-analysis, the increased consumption of vegetables and fruits to over 5-servings daily contributes to a 17% decrease in risk.
Also, from another meta-analysis, there is a reduction of coronary heart illness up to 4% by consuming every portion of vegetables and fruits daily. It is important to incorporate them into your diet.
Also, whole grains contain a ton of phytochemicals. So, when you consume it, you will start to experience lower blood pressure. Consuming whole grains up to 4-servings every day brings a 23% decreased risk of suffering from high blood pressure.
So, when you incorporate it more into your diet, you will witness stable blood pressure. Many studies suggest that there is a link between whole grains and blood pressure.
Many research claims that phytochemicals reduce the chance of developing type-2 diabetes by decreasing inflammation as well as enhancing insulin activity.
It also prevents weight gain, which is one of the most crucial factors connected to the sickness. When there is an increased intake of fruits that are rich in anthocyanin and anthocyanins, you will have a lesser chance of developing this disease.
We come to know from the Women’s Health Study that the intake of tea and apple modestly decreases the risk of type-2 diabetes.
The polyphenols present in cocoa and tea contribute to lowering the risk of this disease and also improving insulin activity. There is a 16% lesser risk in comparison to the non-tea drinkers. Also, consumption of dark leafy veggies gives a stronger response in combating type-2 diabetes.
When your diet plan consists of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, you have a decreased risk of developing various cancer types like colon, breast, and lung.
About 3-servings daily of whole grains can bring a 17% decreased risk of getting colorectal cancer.
There are also specific groups of flavonoids that are linked with a reduced risk of breast cancer.
Consuming cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are responsible for reducing risks of colon, prostate, breast, and lung cancers.
Phytochemicals also protect you from neurodegenerative illnesses like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Phytochemicals like curcumin, capsaicin, resveratrol and epigallocatechin gallate tend to possess neuroprotective effects.
The flavonoids also help in reversing age-related issues relating to your cognitive function. It does so by boosting the connections in neurons and enhancing the flow of blood in the brain.
By taking berries or flavonoids in general, the chances of getting Parkinson’s disease are very less. Plus, cocoa also helps in improving cerebral blood flow.
These chemical compounds are widely available to you. You can start incorporating them into your daily diet for accumulating an array of health benefits.
Regardless of your age, phytochemicals help tackle many diseases and the risks of developing them. It acts as a protective shield and keeps you healthy at all times.